"Reciprocity is everything": The Female Journey to Elective Bonding in African-American Literature

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Title: "Reciprocity is everything": The Female Journey to Elective Bonding in African-American Literature
Author: O'Neil, Justine Eileen
Advisors: Dr. Jon Thompson , Committee Member
Dr. Sheila Smith McKoy, Committee Chair
Dr. Cat Warren, Committee Member
Abstract: This thesis identifies the severe impact of compulsory heterosexuality in the African-American community. In particular, I explore the ways in which compulsory heterosexuality is tied to the legacy of slavery and how it damages Black female subjectivity as well as Black love relationships. I focus on three novels by African-American women — Gayl Jones's Corregidora (1975), Opal Palmer Adisa's It Begins with Tears (1997) and Pearl Cleage's What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day (1997) — to illustrate the struggle that Black women face when subjected to sexual and emotional restrictions. I submit that the opposition to compulsory heterosexuality is elective bonding, in which women demand agency in all relationships. Chapter one discusses the authors' portrayals of how compulsory heterosexuality causes a repression of female desire, particularly when women structure their sexual lives around male satisfaction and reproduction. Chapter two focuses on the power of compulsory heterosexuality to obstruct female bonding from women's lives, mainly by promoting female competition for the male gaze. Finally, chapter three outlines the steps necessary to escape the limitations of compulsory heterosexuality and to enter into elective bonding. My research suggests that effective elective bonding depends largely on building female community. Elective bonding ultimately prepares women to be active agents in all relationships, particularly those with men, in which they denounce compulsory heterosexuality and demand reciprocity. In this project, I posit that female bonding is the medium through which women can escape the sexual and emotional limitations of compulsory heterosexuality.
Date: 2006-04-24
Degree: MA
Discipline: English
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/1285

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